The ubiquitous Polish domofon keypad features numbers with distinct tones, thus allowing for the playback of simple melodies.

The ubiquitous Polish domofon keypad features numbers with distinct tones, thus allowing for the playback of simple melodies.

This one is for the folks in Poland who enjoy the occasional pointless surprise. All you need is one of those ubiquitous black building intercom keypads and maybe a good memory for numbers, if you’re up to the challenge. Enter the digits 058758575130 in sequence and you will hear a familiar melody (possibly to the delight of a passerby who will surely think that you must be a fascinating person). And don’t worry about accidentally ringing, say, apartment 058—just use the key below the digit 9 to disconnect when you are done.

Where did I get this? A few years ago I was that impressed passerby when a guy was showing off for his date in Warsaw’s Różana. Neither of them minded when I swooped in for my little interview, and I’ve been entertaining friends and strangers with this one ever since. 

Six years ago today at Sheremetyevo

A photograph that made one long layover worth every misspent minute. An instant of photojournalistic realness at a time when I was mostly leaving behind that genre for a more reductionist still-life approach. A document from a day in a life suspended between a Murakami-tinged near-month in Japan and a return that... demanded adjustments. A perfect metaphor, maybe, for, well, any number of things.

Photo by Natalia Osiatynska, taken with the Ricoh GR Digital 2 in Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow, on 2009 04 11.

Introducing... something beautiful

It’s special enough when a piece of music becomes a favorite the first time one hears it. But when that piece of music possesses the life and immediacy of an improvised live performance that just happens to be captured on a recording, and it is part of a challenging, previously inaccessible genre—then we are talking about an experience so rare and special that... it even warrants a blog post.

And a world premiere.

Recorded live on March 10, 2015, at Warsaw’s Eufemia, Eleven Minutes In features Patryk Zakrocki on viola along with the duo Skerebotte Fatta, consisting of Jan Małkowski on tenor sax and Dominik “Dodos” Mokrzewski on drums. It is a fragment of the first of two sets performed by the trio on an evening belonging to neither winter nor spring, and it was edited by Małkowski to the specifications of the author of this post. The title, of course, derives from the timing, as does the artwork that shows the sun setting over Warsaw rooftops on the very same day. Both are my contributions, humble and proud.

Now, if you know me, you’ll know I’d love to tell you why this fragment is so perfect. But if you know me well, you’ll also know that my experience with discourse on music is still in its infancy. Indeed, jazz is a puzzle I’m barely learning to solve. Thus, I present you with a masterpiece I can’t explain: four minutes and fourteen seconds of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. Playful yet contemplative, soothing yet elecrifying, with Mokrzewski’s dazzling rhythm and Małkowski’s seductive melodies aligning beautifully with Zakrocki’s irresistible determination. All the sophistication of avant-garde jazz but none of its limits on accessibility. Complex, fascinating music, unburdened by the difficulty that scares away those more accustomed to songs measured in units of chorus and verse. To me, anyway—a softly tapped, wistfully played, remarkably intricate... invitation.

Eleven Minutes In is shared with permission from Małkowski, Mokrzewski and Zakrocki—and published here for the first time, ever.

Thanks, guys.

Translating Różewicz for the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

gripping, important exhibit is on display at Warsaw’s Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej, and I’m proud to report that I got to play a small part in making it into what it is. But first—who was Andrzej Wróblewski? One of Poland’s key figures in the visual arts, Wróblewski had a brief and prolific career in the tumultuous time following the Second World War. His paintings and drawings (and in particular the double-sidedness of many of them) merge abstraction and figuration to challenge both political assumptions and formal constraints. The artist’s use of bright colors and his childlike visual style contrast strikingly with the bleak themes he confronts through his subjects. In other words—were you to glimpse these paintings from afar, you might thing they are lighthearted, cheery ones, but you would be wrong.

One of the pieces on display is a looped archival film by Konrad Nałęcki featuring fragments of works by Wróblewski edited together with fragments of poems by pre-eminent Polish poet Tadeusz Różewicz (1921–2014), which are recited by Tadeusz Łomnicki (1927–1992). Subtitled in English using my translation, Nałęcki’s video is a haunting homage to both Wróblewski and Różewicz—and a testament to the quiet horror of post-war trauma that compelled both artist and poet to create. Read on for excerpts or download the full translation. And expect to feel something like discomfort or despair should you decide to see this in person.

Ciasno w piersiach własnych
Otworzę się 
Jak równina
Przychylna ruchowi i zmienności
Niech mnie napełni ocean życie

Matka przyciska do serca potwora
Twarz obraną z ludzkiej twarzy
Spalone mięso
Oczy bez powiek
Chciałaby go wepchnąć w siebie 
Aby nie chodził pod słońcem i gwiazdami
Potwór polizany jęzorem napalmu

Nad moim stołem uciszonym
Nie schylam już głowy pełnej pomysłów
Na przeciwko nie wiszą na ścianie 
Barwne rebusy poetyckich skojarzeń
Nie gra radio
Nie słyszę skrzypienia krzesła
Nie szeleści pędzel po szorstkim papierze
Nie pracuję


Tightly in my own chest
I will open
Like a plain
Favorable to movement and change
May I fill with the ocean of life

The mother presses a monster to her heart
A face without a human face
Burnt flesh
Eyes with no lids
She wishes she could shove it inside her
Keep it from walking under the sun and stars
This monster licked by a napalm tongue

Over my silent desk
I no longer bend my head full of ideas
On the wall opposite there hang
No vibrant puzzles of poetic thinking
The radio is not on
I cannot hear the chair creaking
The brush is not rustling over rough paper
I am not working

Translation by Natalia Osiatynska, 2015, for the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw’s Andrzej Wróblewski: Recto / Verso, on display from February 12 to May 17, 2015.

More sunsets over Warsaw

All images by Natalia Osiatynska, taken between July 21, 2014, and February 17, 2015, using the (improbably modest) Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT fitted with the (formidable) 200mm/f2.8 L-series lens (images 1-14). Last image shot with the Leica M (Typ 240) and Elmarit 90/2.8.

For earlier work in this series and the... artist’s statement, see the post Evenings in Warsaw.